The relationship we have with our students’ parents is not that of an employee and manager at a McDonalds. They’re not paying us to show up and do exactly as asked. They’re paying for our expertise.
Parents and students at our studio want us to be a leader. They want us to be the expert who guides their journey. Sometimes, being a guide that people can trust means advising against a change of direction with authority and certainty.
More often, though, it means setting the course and giving the people you are guiding enough information about the plan so that they feel confident stepping along the path. They need to know they’re going in the right direction and trust you to lead them there.
Part of being a good guide means sharing your vision with those who you’re leading. That means sending some kind of progress reports, whether formal or informal, on a predictable schedule.
For every young student, you’re actually leading two people: The student and the parent. Both of them need to be able to track where you are on your shared mission and feel like they’re part of the expedition team.
The easiest way to ensure that happens is to commit to a system and write it down. Here’s an example:
How your system looks is up to you – it doesn’t really matter whether you call, email or send a detailed report by post. It should match your studio’s brand and make sense for your unique superpower, and it probably will if it comes from you.
Keep it simple. Keep it predictable.
The important part is that parents and students know you’re steering the ship so that they don’t try and grab the wheel. Which brings me to…
A guide makes recommendations, not suggestions.
Whether you want a student to switch to longer lessons, get a new book or upgrade their instrument, do a quick gut-check on all your communication to make sure it comes across as an expert giving a prescription, not a friend offering an idea.
They don’t know what they don’t know. If we come across as a bit wishy-washy they’ll think that it’s not such a big deal that their child who’s working on Debussy doesn’t have access to a pedal.
I know many of us are recovering people-pleasers, so it’s time for a game of ‘Say this, not that!’
I’m not saying you shouldn’t offer any explanation (we need to shine a light along the path, remember?) but your actual recommendation should be clear and definitive. You are the expert. Wear the badge with pride.